Tuesday, July 5, 2022

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RV Review: Which RV did the RV reviewer choose?

For those who read this column regularly, you’ll know that I totaled my previous travel trailer and have been waiting to pick up its replacement. I’ve also been pretty cagey about what RV we’re picking up. In fact, I’ve been purposely obtuse about the whole thing. 

I’m sure you have other things to worry about, but for those of you who were curious I am writing this from Shipshewana, Indiana, inside our new Rockwood Mini Lite 2205S. So there’s that. 

Why a new trailer? 

The Big Oops

I had mentioned totaling the old trailer, and I did just that. I was driving on a road posted for 55 miles per hour and was driving at that speed. When I saw a huge drainage ditch that spanned the entire road, I hit the brakes. But I still hit that deep ditch close to the posted speed, which flung my old trailer in the air and severely damaged the frame. 

Ultimately, the insurance company declared it a total loss and wrote me a check. It seemed that while the amount I was insured for made sense any other time, the pandemic demand for RVs had forced the value past the total amount the policy would cover. So, they also said I could keep it. I then sold it, essentially at scrap value, to a local walnut orchard where it will live out its days as a guest cottage. Kind of a sweet story. 

Fortunately, no humans (or animals) were injured in the incident. If you’re going through Palm Springs on Dillon Road, 55 miles per hour is much, much too fast for the conditions. The gouges in the pavement on either side of that ditch showed that I wasn’t the only one who had done this. 

Criteria I used

When you’re shopping for RVs I strongly suggest you make a list of priorities. We had a list of “must-have” features and a list of “want” features. 

In the must-have, for us, were build quality factors like Azdel wall construction, torsion axle suspension (or comparable), a permanent walk-around queen bed as opposed to a bed that needed some work to make it usable. If the RV had an oven, it had to be the larger 22” oven. 

We wanted a larger fresh water holding tank than our previous rig had. This one has that at 54 gallons. The previous trailer’s number was 42 gallons, but they used to include the water heater, so really it was 36 gallons. 

Other must-have features were the ability for one of us to sleep while the other worked. My wife and I are on different sleep schedules—she’s a night owl, and I’m an early riser. 

A dry bath was a must-have, as well. 

We also do a lot of boondocking and spend many nights in the driveways of friends and relatives, so the trailer had to be no longer than most driveways. Further, if it had a slide, we had to have full access to the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom with the slide in. 

Obviously, I see a lot of RVs as part of doing this job, and I talk to a lot of RV companies. There are some who are simply doing a better job than others, but I’m also rather picky. It makes this a good job for someone like me. There are also deal breakers.

Some features I like

While nice cabinets and interior features are important, where I start is underneath these trailers. I’m a big fan of the Dexter Torflex axles. Having towed a trailer around with the torsion axles and trailers without, the torsion axles just result in the stuff inside bouncing around less. Also, they cause less damage to the goodies inside as well as to the trailer itself. 

The last trailer got dragged all over the western U.S. I probably put some 35,000-40,000 miles on it, and it still looked and towed as well as it did when it was new. Well, until I cracked the frame.

I also like the Goodyear tires and the tire pressure monitoring system. I’ve seen too many cases of cheap tires going kablooey at the worst possible time. Any tire can pop, but I want to stack the deck in my favor. 

The cabinets, furnishings and all the rest of that were as solid as the day we picked up the old trailer. Rockwood’s cabinet shop is another big plus. I’ve literally seen someone doing pull-ups on the cabinets. Don’t do this. But I’ve seen it. 

Further, on the subject of frames, this newer model has a substantially more rigid frame. Also, Lippert has upgraded its coating material, so they are less prone to rust.

You have to compromise on some things in the shopping process, but knowing your deal-breakers is important. 

Why Rockwood?

Last time we went through all of this shopping business I dragged my poor, patient wife to RV dealers, shows and events for over a year. We looked at more than 100 rigs, and that’s just knowing that many of the criteria we used this time were the same as the last time.

We already knew fifth wheels and anything motorized were not on our shopping list at all. However, we did consider a custom trailer build and actually almost did that. Almost.

But when we bought the last trailer I couldn’t find a group to share questions, information and resources with so I simply started one on Facebook. And that grew to almost 10,000 members. Because of that group, I got to know a lot of the folks at Rockwood and saw how they build these things.

So, while a few other RVs absolutely tempted me, the decision factors overwhelmingly favored another Rockwood product. So here we are.

Compromises

I mentioned that there are always compromises in every RV decision. For example, I wasn’t interested in a windshield on an RV with the bed at the front, and I didn’t want a slide room.

I got both.

Again, everything’s a balance.

About the slide room, the one on this trailer is a rack-and-pinion slide and I prefer those to the Schwintek mechanism. That is only because you can legitimately put the slide out partially and then back in without issue. It’s not ideal, but it can be done.

Sometimes on the Schwintek mechanisms, this can cause an error in the timing and you have to re-time the mechanism. Not the biggest issue in the world, but I always err on the side of simpler or more trouble-free.

The windshields in these are automotive-grade and can be replaced by companies like Safelite or other quickie windshield replacement places. But when handling warranties, our dealership sold Flagstaff RVs, which are identical to Rockwood. I only ever had to replace one windshield, and the company that did it took care of it in no time.

Highlights

Some of the things we’ve since come to appreciate are storage under the bed and the drawers beneath that. There is also storage over the bed across the top. Plus, there are hanging cabinets on either side, with my wife having put a pocketed hanging thing in hers.

There’s also storage under the kitchen cabinet and plenty of prep space. Further, there’s more storage in a pantry on the road side and a second pantry at the back next to the 12-volt refrigerator.

I like the ducted AC and the fact that the furnace doesn’t have floor ducts. There’s a fancy electric fireplace and theater seats. The 12-volt TV is directly opposite those theater seats.

Some disclosures

One of the many things I really appreciate about how Chuck and Emily run this website is that it’s real, old-school journalism and they absolutely insist on honesty and integrity. That’s pretty rare nowadays. It makes a difference that our readers are also our supporters, and your contributions keep things the way they are. Thank you. 

So, I will say, since I know the Rockwood folks well, thanks to the Facebook Group along with working with them on reviews here and some other products, I have an open line of communication with them. 

I was able to get a discounted price on this unit and also it was ushered into production so I could actually get the unit. Further, I worked with several other companies to arrange for some prototype pieces like MORryde, who provided a new entry handle and prototype stabilizer jacks with cross-bracing. These are absolutely game-changing. 

I still paid for this unit but at a pre-arranged discount. But I would have purchased this unit anyway, even at regular dealer retail. I didn’t get this because of any price considerations. I bought this trailer because it fit our needs the best.

##RVDT1869

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John V
19 days ago

Hey Tony!!
I love your column and your reviews are always thorough and it was the main reason I bought a Flagstaff 5er last year.
I wish you and DW all the luck with your rig and hopefully someday run into you both on the road…

Wirly
1 month ago

I’ve been camping for 40 years and had 3 Rockwoods, two were really good and one had a problem with the fiberglass delaminating. Just sold an Outback travel trailer, made by keystone that I was very impressed with as well. Currently bought a Grand Design Imagine that I hope will work well for us in retirement.

Pamela A Betterley
1 month ago

My husband and I are going to downsize into an RV. How hard is this transition?

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 month ago

Hi, Pamela. Go to our website, rvtravel.com , and put “downsizing” in the search box at the top of the page. There are several posts there which might help you. Good luck! 😀 –Diane

Rob
1 month ago

Ha! When I read the line “…I couldn’t find a group to share questions, information and resources with so I simply started one on Facebook”, I laughed out loud! I had to do the same thing with our Embassy RV group. Not quite as big as your 10k group, but we’ve all become family and share information on everything Embassy. Glad you found the RV of your dreams! Be seeing you!

Thomas Champagne
1 month ago

OMG ! I recently purchased a used 2018 Forest River Micro Lite by Flagstaff. It is identical to the one you purchased and I am extremely pleased with all the extras ( including two batteries ) that were included. It’s short size makes it a pleasure to tow with my Nissan frontier

Bob p
1 month ago

Another Frontier tow vehicle, I tow our 23’ Mesa Ridge RLS with my 2018 SV CC. People can’t believe it tows that trailer, it is a great truck, just lousy mpg’s.

Diane Mc
1 month ago

We have a 20 yr old Class A and are nearing the end of our travels. Even if decided to downsize to continue traveling, we would never consider a travel trailer (or any RV that needed to be towed). However, with that said, this is the most perfect travel trailer I’ve ever seen. I read all your reviews & look at the floor plans for info & fun. We could travel in the one you chose….if it was drivable…lol. Has all the features we would be looking for. Great job finding what you truly wanted. Congrats & enjoy.

Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

We had a 2002 38’ class A and thought we were at the end of our traveling years(82&79) and sold the motorhome, we had it just like we wanted it, and within 6 months we realized we had made a mistake. We missed going out in it, I used the excuse it was just getting to be to much to handle, and I’m a former truck driver, hah! As we suffered through another cold damp TN winter we decided we were going back into camping but not as big. We now have a 23’ trailer and midsized pickup and love it. DW says she doesn’t miss making her way back to the bathroom while in motion at 60 mph, now we pull into a rest stop, stretch our legs, let the dog go potty. It’s nice, if you love the RV lifestyle you’ll miss it if you quit, go until you can’t go anymore.

Chris
1 month ago

We currently have a very small 25ft Class A which we really like but it is an older 2002 and we are always concerned about break down. We achieve 12 mpg very consistently.

What mileage do you consistently achieve pulling the trailer?

Chris

Mae
1 month ago

Do you know if a 2016 Ford F150 4×4 8 cylinder would be adequate to pull the Rockwood Mini Lite?

Dennis
1 month ago

I looked, for a while, at every RV in the size I wanted before I settled on a Rockwood MiniLight 2506s. The quality of the unit was better than most others I looked at. I liked the Grand Design a little better but they didn’t have a front kitchen model and I like lots of counter space. As a full timer kitchen counter space ranks high on my list. I got the optional solar panel and 12 volt refrigerator and so far it’s been impressive. The large size doesn’t hurt either. After two years of living as a full timer in Michigan ( yes, two winters too) this Rockwood is still performing well. I have no complaints and nothing has had to be replaced. I would recommend a Rockwood to anyone looking for an RV.

Lindalee
1 month ago

Wow, Tony, a slide AND glass shower doors! How things can change!

Love the stair rail – that would be a great asset to 74 yo knees LOL!! Oh, I forgot solid steps in the 1st sentence LOL (again).

Hope you get MANY years of enjoyment out of your new trailer.

Hope to meet you on the road someday (IF I ever actually GET an RV!).

Denny D
1 month ago

In order to downsize from a fifth wheel we just bought the 2205s last week and we’re loving it so far. It’s fully loaded with power jacks, 2 solar roof panels and second powered vent. Very roomy and practical for such a small trailer. Unfortunately the fresh water tank leaked on the first fillup due to an improperly solvent welded fitting. Waiting to see if the fitting can be replaced or a whole new fresh water tank needs to be installed.

Gary
1 month ago
Reply to  Tony Barthel

Thanks for the info. Hopefully this was covered under your warranty and I know it’s still a pain to get fixed and wait on it but great info. Thanks. Something to look for

DJ Ken Steely
1 month ago

Thanks for this review Tony. My wife and I are considering purchasing an RV trailer and we’ve narrowed it down to this model. Seeing your positive review has pretty much sealed the deal on our choice. Now to find a reliable sales & service dealer and a decent price.

Kiki
1 month ago

I bought my new trailer based on your recommendation! Thank you. PS, I got the Coachman Spirit. Very similar.

McTroy
1 month ago

Nice new trailer! Very impressive that you review all those big toy haulers and huge fifth wheels but still bought a practical trailer. Congrats!

Bob M
1 month ago

Congratulations Tony and good luck with your new travel trailer. Enjoy reading your articles on RV’s.

Larry
1 month ago

I don’t see reading lights up on the bed.

Marc
1 month ago

I applied my own metric for estimating the structural integrity: unloaded weight divided by floor length. It came out to 213 Lbs. Not bad, compared to 235 for Northwood, and 250 lbs for Airstream. Most TTs are about 180 lbs/foot. Ultralights about 140.

Last edited 1 month ago by Marc
Les
1 month ago

Well done, Tony, totally fits the need and wants list.

Warren G
1 month ago

I really like the floor plan on this, and the fact that you can pretty much get to everything with the slide in. I had wondered about the entry handle and the cross support rods on the stabilizers as I’d never seen either, then read these are prototypes. I’ll be interested in hearing about two things as you get this beauty broken in. Both involve how the rear refrigerator does. In our current Cougar X-Lite with leaf springs, I think we would have a food scramble based on how stuff in the rear wardrobe/closet gets bounced around. The second is regarding the draw of the 12v refrigerator and what it takes to keep everything powered without hookups. I know there are advantages to this refrigerator, but our 2 way refrigerator has been reliable and we’ve never had a problem keeping the temperature in the freezer and the fridge where it should be, and we can keep our 2 batteries up with our 120w solar suitcase with just a couple of hours in the morning and then again in the late afternoon.

Steve H
1 month ago
Reply to  Warren G

As I mentioned below, we took our 2012 Rockwood 2109S on our Alaska trip and towed it for a total of 27000 miles before selling it. We never had any problems with food in the fridge being “scrambled”. However, the heavy raised-panel fridge door insert came loose and dropped on my wife’s foot. I repaired that with a couple of screws through the side of the door frame. When we ordered our Rockwood fifth wheel, we did NOT get the extra-cost, raised-panel fridge door!

Jay
1 month ago

Build quality and included features for the price listed In the summary look great. A great choice!

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